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In wake of tragedy, Toronto Councillor wants to ban large trucks from school zones

Violet Liang, 14, died across from Elia Middle School in Toronto’s northwest after being hit by a large truck.

CTV Toronto

Toronto city council should consider banning large trucks from school zones during high-volume periods, says the councillor who represents the area where a teenage girl was killed on Tuesday.

Councillor Anthony Perruzza said he plans to propose a motion to prohibit heavy truck traffic near schools when students arrive in the mornings and leave in the afternoons.

"We need to think about how we might be able to do that," he said.

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Demands to improve road safety near schools come as students and teachers are mourning the death of Violet Liang, who was killed by a large truck as she walked to school for the first day of class on Tuesday morning. Violet, who would have turned 15 on Wednesday, died in front of Elia Middle School, just a short walk away from C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute where she was entering Grade 10.

Violet is the second Toronto student to be killed by a large truck in just six months. In March, five-year-old Kayleigh Callaghan-Belanger died after she was hit by a city garbage truck on her way home from school.

Chris Bolton, the chair of the Toronto District School Board, also called on the city to enact better safety measures to prevent such tragedies.

While emphasizing that there are several options, Mr. Bolton said he favours examining installing a system of flashing lights and lower speed limits in school zones during peak hours. He also called for an increase in the number of crossing guards.

"I think that it's a pressing issue, period. Any time that there's a safety risk to children or pedestrians generally, I think that we need to act. And when it has to do with our learners, I think the school boards in particular have an obligation to encourage the city to get moving," he said, adding that he discussed the issue with Councillor Doug Ford on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Perruzza said he plans to meet with Councillor Gary Crawford, who proposed a review of the city's solid-waste operations, including garbage truck routes, after Kayleigh's death. On Wednesday, Mr. Crawford said rescheduling garbage routes during peak arrival and departure times is "very cumbersome."

"Just banning trucks, we do it all across the city. There are no-truck prohibitions. But do they really work? They don't. It's an enforcement issue," Mr. Crawford said. "So it's great to say we need to ban trucks from school zones, but to do that, what's the impact? Maybe nothing."

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Still, Mr. Perruzza said that if Mr. Crawford's proposal "hasn't gone a long way," he said he plans to bring forward a motion to ask city staff to determine what council can do to ban truck traffic around schools when students are arriving and leaving. Such a prohibition could include signage as well as stepped-up enforcement efforts.

"I'm hoping that we can do it fairly quickly," he said.

Mr. Perruzza said heavy trucks are not supposed to travel in the neighbourhood where Violet died unless they are making specific deliveries. However, he said construction on the nearby Finch West TTC station, as well as other projects, has pushed truck traffic into the neighbourhood.

Mr. Perruzza also said he requested a crossing guard at the intersection across from Elia Middle School, where Violet was killed.

"[Tuesday's] tragedy clearly points out that something needs to be done at this" intersection, he said. "I'm hoping that we can do that."

Trustee Stephnie Payne, who represents the area, also called for a crossing guard at the intersection and said she supports considering banning heavy trucks from school zones.

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"It's something that needs to be looked at simply because we cannot have young lives going like this. It is a tragedy."

Meanwhile, students at C.W. Jefferys wore purple to school on Wednesday to honour Violet.

"I know some of us may not have known Violet as well as we wish we had but just know she was an amazing girl: funny, intelligent, beautiful, and so full of joy," Jessica Quino wrote on the school's student Facebook page. "The impact she's made on people's lives is remarkable and I know she will truly be missed. Our thoughts and condolences go out to her family and dear friends."

With a report from Elizabeth Church

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